When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Martavis Bryant in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft, there was more than just a little grumbling among fans that follow the black and gold. Coming off the selection of Dri Archer in the 3rd round, fans weren't happy with the raw receiver from Clemson.
As Bryant struggled through training camp and the preseason, he had to wait his turn, but when he got his chance he made it count. Bryant had 26 receptions for 549 yards and 8 touchdowns in 11 games in 2014, and his 21.1 yards per catch would have been the highest in the league if he had met the 30 reception minimum.
How good can Bryant be going into his sophomore season? Bryant told Scott Brown of ESPN.com his potential is limitless.
"The sky's the limit as long as I continue to work," Bryant said. "I'm not setting (any) bars for myself."
With Bryant's rare athleticism within a 6-foot 4-inch frame, one has to wonder just what the young wide out is capable of once he becomes comfortable within the Steelers' system.
One person who has always been hesitant of praising rookie players is head coach Mike Tomlin, and his words resonated when speaking about Bryant and his productive rookie season.
"I saw growth in him and that growth came with snaps," Tomlin said. "The thing is, he has to continue to grow and have an open mind. He has to acknowledge that he doesn't have all the answers. Sometimes that is seemingly more difficult than it appears."
"He probably has less anxiety now than he did nine or 10 months ago, because there are less unknowns," the eighth-year coach said. "Sometimes that's a good thing for men, and sometimes that's a bad thing for men. I am going to be watching him very closely as he proceeds."
Bryant got a taste of success in the NFL, but for him to excel he will have to work on his craft in the offseason. Bryant is no slouch when it comes to hard work, he traveled to California during the Steelers' bye week for MMA training with Jay Glazer to keep him in shape during the season.
That kind of work ethic is something which isn't taught, but naturally found inside each player. As for what Bryant took away from his 2014 season, his success was just a taste of what could be.
"It let me know that I do have what it takes to play up here, and if I continue to work hard and continue to grind I'm going to be fine."